Terrifyingly mustering an equally frightening amount of emotional dread and sorrow with physical apprehension and fear on a continuous basis can be a daunting process for people whose lives are driven by alarming circumstances. But producer Jason Blum has intriguingly built his careers on crafting and expanding the heightened emotional and physical senses of panic in such popular horror series as ‘Paranormal Activity,’ ‘Insidious’ and ‘The Purge.’ The Emmy Award-winning producer is once again intriguingly thriving on expanding the mythology of what made the first film effective in his latest horror franchise, with the release of the new horror sequel, ‘Sinister 2,’ which is set to be released in theaters on Friday.
As Blum appreciates in all his series, the anticipated follow-up to the hit 2012 horror film, ‘Sinister,’ will deepen audience’s appreciation of the franchise by retaining beloved elements from the original, while also surprising theme by not being imitative. The producer was skillfully able to accomplish that by recruiting Irish genre director Ciarán Foy, who previously helmed the 2012 horror thriller, ‘Citadel.’ The filmmaker made his American directorial debut on ‘Sinister 2,’ which was written by the original movie’s helmer, Scott Derrickson, and his co-scribe, C. Robert Cargill.
‘Sinister 2’ follows nine-year-old twins Dylan and Zach Collins (portrayed by real-life brothers Robert and Dartanian Sloan), who have been taken to a rural house in Illinois by their mother, Courtney (Shannyn Sossamon), in an effort to start their lives over. Their new home and property are just isolated enough to evade Courtney’s estranged husband, Clint (Lea Coco), who emotionally and physically abused her and Dylan. While the protective mother believes her decision to flee her husband will protect her and their sons, she’s unaware that the house she as chosen to move into has been targeted by Bughuul (Nicholas King).
Ex-Deputy So & So (James Ransone), who has been fired from his position in the Pennsylvania police department he served on in ‘Sinister,’ is now working a private investigator. In an attempt to avenge the murders of his friend Ellison Oswalt (Ethan Hawke) and his family in the original film, So & So is diligently working to find a way to finally stop Bughuul once and for all.
In his research, the former deputy has discovered that the house Courtney has moved her children into is the next manifestation spot for the pagan Babylonian deity. So he travels to the rural residence, and intends to burn it to the ground, in an attempt end Bughuul’s chain of death. Once he arrives, So & So is not only surprised to find Courtney and the twins living there, but that they’re also in danger from Clint. The former police officer must step in to protect them from Courtney’s estranged husband before he can implement a plan of attack against Bughuul. However, neither Courtney nor So & So are aware that Bughuul’s ghost kids have already begun targeting Dylan with their disturbing home movies, with each one showing a more sinister murder than the last, which makes the former deputy’s mission even more difficult than he could have ever imagined.
Blum generously took the time recently to talk about producing ‘Sinister 2’ during an exclusive phone interview. Among other things, the Academy Award-nominated producer discussed how he was interested in making a follow-up to the acclaimed original film in the ‘Sinister’ series, as he feels that continuing to expand Bughuul’s unusual mythology can help turn him into a new horror icon; how he originally wanted Derrickson to return to the director’s chair for ‘Sinister’s sequel, but once he watched ‘Citadel,’ he knew Foy would be the perfect fit to take on the directorial duties for the follow-up; and how he feels that horror is one genre that feels scarier and more realistic when films are made with a lower budget and practical effects, like having King step into Bughuul’s costume on set, than with continuous CG sequences.
ShockYa (SY): Why were you interested in continuing the story of the pagan Babylonian deity, Bughuul, who was the antagonist in the original ‘Sinister,’ in the sequel? Why do you think horror fans, who embraced the first film when it was released in theaters in 2012, are so passionate about these types of films?
Jason Blum (JB): I think a lot of it has to do with Bughuul; people are always looking for a new horror icon. I wouldn’t put him in that category yet, but maybe he will get there. But I feel like he was original, creepy and unusual. With the mythology around him, he can go a lot of different places. That mythology is what I wanted to learn more about in the second movie.
SY: What was your experience of working with Ciaran Foy, who made his American feature film directorial debut with ‘Sinister 2,’ after the original film’s helmer, Scott Derrickson, decided to only write and produce the follow-up?
JB: Well, I originally wanted Scott to direct again, but he only agreed to write and produce the sequel, which I reluctantly accepted. When I finally accepted his decision, we started looking for someone else to direct the film.
Scott was actually the one who saw ‘Citadel,’ and thought it was great. He thought we should consider Ciaran. So I watched the movie, which I hadn’t seen before, and agreed with Scott, since there so many kids in it. Ciaran was so good at working with, and directing, kids that I thought he would be a good fit for ‘Sinister 2.’
So we flew him in from Ireland, and Scott and I had dinner with him. Scott’s shoes are big to fill, and Ciaran actually did a better job than I thought he would. He was very collaborative, and at the same time, had his own voice. I feel like ‘Sinister 2’ has the tone of the first movie, but is also different enough. I had a great experience working with Ciaran, and would love to make another movie with him.
SY: Besides Ciaran, you have worked with several first-time directors, and helmers who were in the beginning of their careers. Why do you enjoy working with up-and-coming helmers, particularly outside of the studio system, in the beginning of their careers?
JB: Well, most of the directors we do work with aren’t first-time directors. We’ve actually had more luck with directors who have a bit more experience. But every so often, we do work with first-time directors, like with Joel Edgerton on ‘The Gift,’ and Ciaran had only directed (‘Citadel’) before ‘Sinister 2.’
I think the system is actually unfair. I think the more movies you’ve made, the less money you need. When you haven’t directed before, you’re not sure what’s going to end up in the movie, so you want more time and coverage. But the more you direct, the more confident you become, and the less time and money you need. So I almost think it works in an inverse way.
SY: Blumhouse Productions specializes in producing micro- and low-budget genre movies outside of the studio system. Why do you feel filming genre films, like the ‘Sinister’ series, independently is beneficial, both for you as a producer, as well the filmmakers and cast?
JB: Yes, I think having lower budgets make horror movies better. When you take out special effects and stunts, you have to rely on old-fashioned scares. I think those are more effective than scares that are done with effects and expensive shots. So I think horror is one genre that feels grittier, scarier and more realistic when films are made with a lower budget.
SY: Speaking of the fact that the ‘Sinister’ films don’t heavily emphasize CG and practical effects, and focus more on the characters’ emotional arcs and jump scares to frighten viewers, why do you think that approach was beneficial in telling these stories?
JB: Well, I feel like emotional and character beats, and when you get in between a mother and her children, are much more threatening to people than big, bad CG monsters. I think Bughuul’s scary because he’s played by real person in a practical costume, and isn’t a computer generated villain. To me, that’s much scarier.
SY: With the independent film market changing the way it releases films so much in the past few years, and many indies being released on VOD, why do you feel it’s important to continue releasing them in a wide theatrical release?
JB: I think it depends on the movie; I don’t think one platform’s better than the other. I think the size and shape of the release fits the size and shape of the movie. I don’t really have a preference one way or the other. I’m thrilled when a movie comes out on 2,100 screens, but we’ve also had much smaller releases. ‘Whiplash’ was initially only released on 10 screens, and that was a thrill, too. We’re also releasing Eli Roth’s movie (‘The Green Inferno’) on 1,500 screens. I feel the way a movie’s distributed is less important than the movie itself.
SY: ‘Sinister 2’ was written and directed by Scott Derrickson, who you mentioned earlier. Do you have any plans to reunite with him another film, particularly in the horror genre?
JB: We don’t currently have any plans to reunite with him as the director on a horror film. But I would definitely love to make anything scary with him again.
SY: Horror franchises often have multiple sequels, but the later installments don’t always fare as well with fans as the original film. If viewers are receptive to seeing how the story of Bughuul continues, would you be interested in working on a second follow-up?
JB: I would love to make a third movie, if the second one connects with audiences in the way that I hope it will. The production on the first and second movies were tough, so I haven’t discussed a third film with Scott and Cargill yet. But I definitely plan to discuss the possibility of making another ‘Sinister’ film, if this one connects with people.
SY: ‘Sinister 2’ features several connections to its predecessor; James Ransone reprised his role of Deputy So & So from ‘Sinister,’ and the sequel also references other characters from the original film. Why do you feel it’s important to feature returning characters in the sequels, especially since so many horror franchises don’t continue that continuity in each installment?
JB: I feel like it’s important to pick certain characters from ‘Sinister’ to come back for the second movie. If James hadn’t come back, and Ethan reprised his role instead, it would have been a prequel. But it’s also important to introduce new characters, and find a balance between everyone. You don’t want everyone to come back, because it would feel too much like the first movie. Even though James had a small part in the first movie, I think it was appreciated. So I think it was smart of Scott and Cargill to bring him back for the second film.
SY: While James’ character returns to the sequel, Shannyn Sossamon plays a new character in the series, Courtney Collins, whose twin sons, Dylan and Zach, who are played by Robert Daniel and Dartanian Sloan, are targeted by Bughuul. How important did you feel it was for the sequel to showcase Bughuul’s influence through Dylan and Zach’s perspectives, instead of just through Shannyn’s viewpoint?
JB: I think that telling most of the story through the kids’ point-of-views makes it very creepy, and gets under your skin. That was an idea that Scott and Cargill had early on, and I thought it was great, so I encouraged them to pursue it.
SY: As a producer, how involved are you in the casting process of the films you work on, such as with Shannyn, Robert and Dartanian on ‘Sinister 2?’ Do you allow the directors and casting directors have freedom in which actors they want to hire for the roles?
JB: I was really involved in Shannyn’s casting, but I was much less involved in the casting of the kids. In general, I always have an opinion, but it’s not always listened to. But we have a casting director who runs the casting for us, and works with the company (Blumhouse Productions) full-time. Her name is Terri Taylor, and she works on all of our movies. She does a great job, and she and I see eye-to-eye. She works with the directors, and that’s how the cast of ‘Sinister 2’ came to be finalized. She worked with Scott and Ciaran in choosing great actors for the parts.
SY: While many of the films you produce are shot in Los Angeles, principal photography on ‘Sinister 2’ took place on location in and around the Chicago area. What was the process of shooting in Illinois? Why did you feel it was important to film in a rural area, to showcase the isolated area Courtney has brought her children to in order to protect them?
JB: It was an important aspect of the creative process, but it was a very difficult shoot, so we won’t be running back to shoot in Illinois again.
SY: ‘Sinister 2’ takes a different approach in its visual storytelling overall from the original film, as the follow-up’s story isn’t just told from Courtney’s perspective in the farmhouse; the movie’s also set in the church she’s working in, in the deputy’s motel room and various other locations in the area. Why do you feel it was important to expand the locations and overall look of the film?
JB: I think the idea to use Bughuul’s point-of-view to wrap a different nightmare around was something that Scott and Cargill decided on when they agreed to make a second movie. Shannyn’s character is the lynchpin of what this new story in ‘Sinister 2’ revolves around.
Written by: Karen Benardello